§ 88. The interrogation before the high priest

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 88.

The interrogation before the high priest.

1.The interrogation before Annas.

John 18, 12-14. 19 – 24.

The fourth would have to know the matter quite well and his report would have to be the most reliable, if he really is that other disciple who was known to the high priest Annas and through whose mediation Peter succeeded in penetrating into the vestibule of the high priestly palladium.

But before we believe him that Jesus was brought into the palladium of Annas, who was only the father-in-law of the real high priest, Caiaphas, he would have to prove better than he has done that he is at home in the area he describes and with which he is so anxiously familiar, and he should not speak as if he were less acquainted with nothing than with the Jewish constitution at that time. Caiaphas, he says, was the high priest of that year. About this new enrichment of our knowledge of history, i. e. about the note that the high priests in Jerusalem changed annually, we do not want to come out of joy or displeasure, we prefer to note immediately how the fourth came to this note: in the writing of Mark he finds the category “the high priests,” misunderstands this determination of the majority, misunderstands also the other note in the writing of Luke, that Jesus appeared when Annas and Caiaphas were high priests, (C. 3, 2) thinks that the dignity changed annually between the two, or perhaps they followed each other in dignity at that time, and finally imagines that because Annas was the father-in-law of the reigning – – – but let us leave that!


The interrogation that Jesus has to undergo is very short, but also meaningless; yes, if we consider how Annas’ question about Jesus’ teachings and disciples and his answer that he has always taught freely and publicly arose, the interrogation dwindles to a minimum, or rather, into nothing. The only new thing that the fourth Gospel adds to Jesus’ speech is the rather abrupt remark: “Why do you ask me? Ask my listeners what I have said to them; they know what I have said.” One of the servants then strikes Jesus in the face because he answered disrespectfully to the High Priest’s question, and after Jesus has fairly sentimentally defended himself against the servant (“if I have answered badly, prove it; but if it was appropriate, why do you strike me?” … if it wasn’t important to him to say a few more words, he should have expressed himself more fully to the High Priest) – the matter is settled.


Annas now sends Jesus bound – already before the Roman cohort, their colonel and the servants of the Jews had bound him when he was captured – to Caiaphas, from where he was led to the praetorium in the morning without any further action being taken with him. Or rather only up to the Praetorium, since the Jews, in order not to defile themselves for the enjoyment of the Passover lamb on the evening, do not want to step into the Gentile house: Pilate must therefore step out of the government building, and after he had had to take a very defiant answer in return for his condescending favor, he must in addition so far forgive himself his dignity as to take Jesus into his custody as a capital criminal, before he can learn from the Jews why he had forfeited life (C. 18, 28-32).

However, we have not heard that Jesus was found guilty of death after an interrogation, nor why he deserved to die. Therefore, when the Jews answer Pilate’s question about what charges they have against this man by saying, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you,” it is not only ridiculous, arrogant, and audaciously disrespectful towards the authorities, whom they should have tried to win over, but it is also tantamount to saying nothing, as all the prerequisites necessary for such a statement are missing.

All those novelties that the fourth Gospel reports – and everything he reports consists of novelties – All that we do not want to list again has left no room for him to report on the main thing, the actual interrogation, and he had to bring in these novelties because he did not dare to report on the main thing. Why? It will become clear when we look at the original report.


2. The original report.

Mark 14, 53 – 65.

Mark does not yet know the name of the High Priest to whom Jesus would be brought, and out of obedience to Mark, Luke does not mention him, although he did name the names of Caiaphas and Annas in the opening of his work, which is his own creation. Matthew combines the earlier information from Luke with this last part of the Gospel, and on his own account, names the High Priest as Caiaphas. Peter had also followed his Lord to the palace of the High Priest.


Mark knows of only one interrogation. The synod had tried to find false witnesses, but could not reconcile their testimony. Some of them testified that they had once heard Jesus say that he would tear down this temple and erect another one in three days; but even their testimony could not bring anything to a decision, since it was not true. In vain the high priest asked Jesus to answer, and only then, when he asked him the decisive question, whether he was the Son of the Blessed One, the accused answered: I am He, and from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven. Then the high priest tore his garment and said, “Why do we need witnesses?” and the assembled council pronounced a sentence of death for blasphemy.

Now follows the mocking and maltreatment of Jesus by the servants, the denial of Peter, and the statement that the priesthood came in the morning and handed Jesus over to Pilate – Mark does not yet know anything about that ridiculous scruples of the Jews regarding impurity, of course also because he does not need to impress upon his readers so anxiously that tonight only the Passover lamb will be eaten.

Matthew tells the same and has strictly kept to the original report, while the report of Luke already forms the transition to that of the fourth, namely is just as incomplete and confused.


3. Luke’s Report.

Luke22, 54-71.

Immediately after the notice that Jesus was led “into the house” of the high priest, the report of Peter’s denial follows, and immediately after that the report of the taunts and mockings that Jesus had to suffer. There is no mention of an interrogation yet.

Only in the morning the Sanhedrin gathers, Jesus is summoned, asked if he is the Christ, and although he now makes a lot of dodges: “If I say it, you will not believe, and if I ask, you will neither answer me nor let me go”, although we should therefore expect him to abstain from all answers, he nevertheless adds, not only without any motive – for it would then have to be: yes, I am! – but also in contradiction to the motive introduced: from now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the power of God. Now we should think that the questions would be over, but no! As if it were a different one from the first, a second one follows: if he is the Son of God, Jesus answers it in the affirmative, his opponents shout: why do we still need a testimony, and he is led to Pilate.

It is clear: the anxious confusion in Jesus’ first answer, the anxious appearance of a twofold question, came about because Luke knew that the interrogation had to be longer, and because he was unsure how to accomplish this extension. It is equally clear that the mockery of Jesus, if it occurs before his declaration that he is the Lord of Glory, has lost its basis; and that Peter’s denial, only after Jesus’ condemnation, as the incident that completes the measure of the sufferings of this night, requires no explicit proof.

The report, however, is not only highly deficient in its arrangement – namely completely confused and shifted, but that an important component of the interrogation is suppressed by Luke and yet the structure of the original report is maintained, is evident from the question (Chapter 22, verse 71): what need have we of further witnesses? What kind of question is this if it was not previously reported that efforts had been made in vain to obtain witness statements! Luke wanted to reserve that testimony, that Jesus had uttered blasphemies against the temple – “the holy place”, Acts 6:13 – for the story of Stephen. Hence the incomplete nature of the report and its convoluted arrangement.


Luke had shown the fourth how to do it, if he wanted to use the statement of the false witnesses otherwise. On the occasion of the cleansing of the temple, the fourth had really put that saying about the temple into the mouth of the Lord and used the note of Mark that the testimony of the accusers was not the same to ascribe a misunderstanding to the people concerning that saying (John 2, 19 – 21) – reason enough to do everything to fill the gap that arose in every possible way. But he should not have made the gap even more unbearable by completely omitting to inform us that and how the synod condemned the Lord to death!


4. Release of the original report.

Trifles – which, however, are not trifles at all for history as well as for a proper history book – as e.g. that the synod could be assembled immediately in the night, since one did not know whether the attack of Judas would succeed today or when at all; the other, that the synod had to meet again in the morning, since the matter had already been decided – but it happened only because Mark needed a transition and a starting point for the following – whether finally the synod could admit that the servants were allowed to exercise their crudities on the accused so unguardedly, we will not mention.

But this is not a trifle, that the saying of the temple, if Jesus, as it is the premise of the original evangelist, had really recited it once before the people, would have been understood by no one. The temple that Jesus wants to found in three days after the overthrow of the old one is the church that is founded with the resurrection: but who would have understood this among the people? Who will present things that no one among the listeners understands? But no one can recite such things either: sayings always come into being only when, and where, they are understood.


The elements out of which this saying and the whole situation is formed are the following.

That false witnesses stand up against the righteous is taught by many Psalms (e.g. Ps. 27, 12); but just one conclusion about a statement concerning the sanctuary Mark learned from the writing of Jeremiah. This prophet also once prophesied the downfall of the temple and was therefore accused by the priesthood of being guilty of death: “he is worthy of death, say the accusers and judges of Jeremiah, he has prophesied against this city, as you yourselves have heard with your ears” (Jer. 26:11) much as in the writing of Mark the priest says: “You have heard blasphemy, what do you think?” and how the others now reply that he is guilty of death. The only difference is that, while Jeremiah knew how to justify himself and was protected by the princes, the testimony about Jesus’ statement could not decide the matter, which here had to end in death, and only Jesus’ declaration that he was the Messiah had to bring about the verdict.

The hardships that Jesus had to endure after his redemption were absolutely necessary and could not be spared to the Messiah, so that what the Holy Spirit had dictated to the prophet long before (Is. 50, 6) about the fate of the Messiah would be fulfilled.


5. The Denial of Peter.

In the usual manner of the fourth gospel, in which the words only have value and are worthy of the Lord, when they are quite vaporous floating or cretinous bloated, Jesus says during the last meal to the disciples (C. 13, 33) that he must now tell them the same thing that he once told the Jews (C. 7, 34), that they were looking for him, but where he was going, they could not go. Of course, the disciples must not understand these words as much as they understood the Jews at that time. Peter therefore asks very curiously: where are you going? Where I am going, Jesus answers – but Peter has hardly become wiser now – you cannot follow, but later – Jesus adds, having in mind the legend of Peter’s death on the cross – you will follow me. Again, in the manner of the fourth, it is natural that Peter does not understand a word of what Jesus said, but rather wonders why he cannot follow the Lord now, since he would lay down his life for him. You? Jesus answers, you will lay down your life for me? Verily, verily, I say unto thee, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. (V. 36 – 38.)

Luke also inserted very improper reflections into the original text. Once, after he had settled the childish contest of the disciples about the precedence, Jesus remarks (C. 22, 31-34), “Simon, Simon, Satan hath desired you, that he may sift you as the wheat; but I have prayed for you, that your faith fail not, and when you are converted some day,-thus also a reflection to the future, but what reflection! is “some day” so far off? Shall it not be concluded with the cockcrow? – so strengthen your brothers. Peter declares that he will follow the Lord to prison and death, whereupon he must then hear that he will rather deny him three times before the cock crows today.

Luke has set a threefold machinery in motion and each of them makes the other superfluous or an illusion. If the shocking impression of the cockcrow is completely paralyzed and canceled out, when Jesus’ prayer is supposed to bring about the decision, then again the prayer has become superfluous, when Peter is brought to himself immediately after the third denial by the fact that the Lord – we do not know how it was possible, since Jesus was inside in the palladium, Peter outside in the courtyard – turned to him and looked at him.


Matthew, who remained faithful to the original account, makes the Lord – and it is only right and appropriate – remark on the way to Gethsemane (Chapter 26, 30-35) that all of them would be offended because it is written: “I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” Peter – note the progression! – declares that even if all the others were to be offended, he would not, and he insists on the opposite even after Jesus had told him that he would deny him three times that night before the rooster crowed. The other disciples also assure that they would remain steadfast — —

just like Mark (C. 14, 26 – 31), only that the original character of his report is revealed in his entangling antithesis:  “this night, before the cock crows twice, you will deny me three times!”

We already know what is meant by the marvelous historical knowledge of the fourth, that Jesus is led into the palace of Annas, that in the same palace, into which he gained entrance through the mediation of the other disciple, Peter denies his Lord, what is meant by this admirable vividness. First Peter has to deny his Lord before the door of the palladium, when he gets entrance through the mediation of the other disciple (C. 18, 15-17) – how inappropriate it is that here, where Peter has to stand alone, another disciple appears, which either repulsive or meaningless role this other plays, while Peter falls and rises again from the fall, that, then Peter denies his master in front of the servants with whom he warms himself at the fire, and he repeats his denial when a relative of poor Malchus speaks to him about having seen him in the garden! Then the cock crows (v. 25-27).


We recover immediately at the primal account (Mark 14, 66-72). Peter, who had followed his master into the palladium of the high priest, warms himself in the courtyard at the fire, one of the maids addresses him as one who had also been in the company of the Nazarene Jesus, he denies, retreats into the porch and the cock crows. The same maid, seeing him again, decouples him to the bystanders, he denies and – note this connection! – denies again, when shortly afterwards the bystanders remark that his Galilean dialect betrays him. With an oath Peter denies this time, then the cock crows, he remembers the words of Jesus and – for all this the fourth one had no more thoughts after his great efforts – cries. This is coherence and simplicity of presentation, economy of means and all the greater effect.

Luke has already violated the law of parsimony by not letting the maid appear twice, but instead introducing “another” to Peter the second time and letting another, very loosely even, affirm that Peter is one of the group for the third time, because – but how did he know? – he is also a Galilean. Luke has also overlooked how the two crowings of the rooster hold the whole development together. The same has also been overlooked by Matthew, and he has no less disregarded how beautiful and simple it is if the same maid who recognized Peter first and alone shows him to the other person the second time: the second time, he introduces another maid.

Mark was the first to form the entire story and formed it to enhance the impression of the abandonment in which the Lord stood after his condemnation. Jesus must also predict Peter’s fall to make it certain that he not only stood above the collision with the calmness and certainty of his spirit but was also not surprised by any incident of it in any way. –


Peter will not hold it against us if we add a critique of the reports on the end of the traitor as an appendix here.


6. The End of the Traitor.

In his Gospel, Luke remains faithful to the original type of the evangelical story to the extent that he tells nothing about the fate of Judas. Only in the Acts of the Apostles does he know how to tell that the traitor bought a field with the blood money, but suddenly — how floating and unstable the report is fabricated! — fell down and burst in the middle, so that — glorious imagination — all (!) his entrails spilled out, and that now, when it became known to all inhabitants of Jerusalem, the field was called Akeldama, the Field of Blood.

So because (Acts 1:18-20) the villain’s entrails were lying on this field, it was called the Field of Blood! And all the inhabitants of Jerusalem hear that news! And they take so much interest in the long-gone story, perhaps take so far for Judas and against the murdered Messiah, that they baptize that field the Field of Blood. But no! They only call it the Field of Blood because of the entrails!

This time, Luke had the interest of completing the number of twelve apostles and, at the same time, to emphasize vividly the gap in the story by establishing the end of the traitor. He cites the two prophecies that had to be fulfilled now. The heritage of the evildoer must become desolate, and he himself must perish (Ps. 69:26) — of course, this time the heritage that the evildoer acquired with his sin money — and, Ps. 109:8, his office must be given to another. Another, however, must be chosen by lot this time so that, when this other disappears without a trace, the truly other, the true replacement, Paul, later appears even more significant.


Whether Matthew became acquainted with the field of blood from Luke’s Acts of the Apostles, or whether this field already existed in the circle where he learned the Gospel of his predecessor, detached from the written letter and discussed, cannot be decided here. Enough, he includes it, and to make the matter more melodramatic and to introduce the new melodrama in his Gospel, he breaks the original structure of the Gospel history and separates the note that Jesus was brought to Pilate from the other, that he now stood before the governor. If the end of the betrayer were to be reported in a Gospel, it must now happen immediately, not later as in the Acts of the Apostles. This new arrangement can even be called an improvement compared to the one made by Luke, who does not let much time pass between the ascension of Jesus and the election of his replacement, yet speaks as if Judas had possessed the field for a longer time, as if the death of the betrayer had already occurred for some time, and as if the field had borne the name given to it by all the inhabitants of Jerusalem for a longer time. Luke had the first agony of invention; Matthew does it better, even if he had to slow down the development of the Gospel history to make it better. (Chapter 27, 2-11)

Immediately, as Judas sees that Jesus has been condemned by the priests, he feels remorse etc and brings back his, that is, the prophet’s, silver coins to the priests so that they could be sent to their true destination, commanded by the prophet. Judas even helps with this. When the priests respond to his complaint that he has betrayed innocent blood by saying that it is none of their concern, his and the evangelist’s desperation helps him so much that he succeeds in throwing the silver coins into the temple, after which he hangs himself. The priests must now take care of the expedition of the silver coins. As blood money, they think they cannot keep them in the temple, so they purchased the Potter’s Field – which was therefore very cheap! – and designated it as a burial place for strangers, and the field itself was called the Field of Blood from then on. The confusion of this world: to call or even prove all of this and everything that follows as confusion or chaos, such as that Judas could enter the temple, that the priests immediately found the silver coins in the temple, and guessed their former owner immediately, would be a deliberate waste of time, since we have already seen that these silver coins are only given to Judas by Matthew.


We have only to explain the prophecy which Matthew provided for its fulfillment.

That shepherd, Jehovah himself, whose earnings have been estimated at thirty pieces of silver, says indignantly to the prophet (Zech. 11:13): “Throw the glory of the price at which I am valued by them into the treasury” (Treasure ! this is here יןצר). The prophet knows immediately what kind of treasure is meant, he “takes the pieces of silver and throws them into the temple, into the treasury. ” If Jehovah’s glory otherwise dwells in the temple, then it should now , where he breaks with the people, instead of him the ridiculous price at which his people valued him can be found in the temple. Tooth for tooth! mockery for mockery!

No one knew it better than Matthew — after all, above C. 26, 15 he literally formed his text after that, where the prophetic passage about the pieces of silver is. Nevertheless he now quotes Jeremiah (C. 26, 9). Why? Because he wants to remind the reader that the moment has now come when his prophecies will also be fulfilled, and because he borrowed the note from the potter’s field from his writing, the note which he immediately weaves into the quotation from the writing of Zechariah. He already understood the word יןצר in the writing of Zechariah to mean potter, and Jeremiah teaches him what the potter means here. He was once commanded by Jehovah to go down to the potter’s house and to learn from the arbitrariness with which he dealt with the clay how arbitrarily Jehovah could deal with his people (C. 18, 1-6). . Even more! In front of the brick gate in the valley of Ben Hinnom, where the potters are working – that is the connection that connects both prophecies! — shall Jeremiah go, buy himself an earthenware jar from the potter, break it in front of the elders of the people and the priests, and say: Jehovah also will break this people and this city in pieces! (C. 19, 1-11.)


Matthew has now made sure that the priests, through their purchase on the potter’s field, carry the pledge that Jehovah has to redeem in the fall of their city.



§ 85. The last supper of Jesus

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Critique of the Gospel History of the Synoptics
by Bruno Bauer

Volume 3



§ 85.

The last supper of Jesus.

The meal which, according to the fourth evangelist, Jesus enjoyed with the disciples at the end, is not the Passover meal of which the Synoptics speak, but that it is nevertheless said to be the same meal is evident from the fact that the very scene with Judas is said to have taken place at it, of which the Synoptics report as an intermediate incident at that Passover meal.


1. The preparations for the Passover meal.

All three synoptics tell us how Jesus made the arrangements for this last supper. Luke has understood the matter in such a way that Jesus took the initiative, that is, he sent Peter and John to make arrangements for the Passover meal, and only when they asked him where he wanted the meal to be prepared did he instruct them, they should only go into the city, where they would meet a man with a water jug, whom they should follow into the house where he would enter, and tell the master of the house that the Master would ask him where the inn was, where he could eat the Passover with his disciples.


According to Matthew, on the other hand, who thus remained faithful to Mark, the disciples first come to Jesus with their question as to where he would eat the passover, and he then gives them his orders.

This is much simpler and more natural. Therefore, when Jesus gives the disciples the order to prepare the Passover meal without telling them where and how, this means sending them into the wilderness, and this intentionally, in order to make them feel afterwards, in their embarrassment, how splendidly and wonderfully he knows how to provide for all cases in advance. This is affected, pretentious, embarrassing: it is later, intentional exaggeration.

Furthermore: While Mark and Matthew immediately get to the point and both report that Jesus spoke of the traitor and instituted the Lord’s Supper after the beginning of the meal, Luke has prolonged the matter and slowed down its rapid movement by letting the Lord say at the beginning of the meal: “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer” (Luke 22:15). He has thus added a sentimental touch, and in order to make it quite significant, he has already arranged it so that Jesus takes the initiative and sends the disciples off to order the meal from the beginning, i.e. into the blue.

It is very easy to explain why the Fourth does not report anything about these arrangements for the meal and, what is more, about these wonderful arrangements. For he has – with what intention will become apparent in the course of this investigation – changed the chronology. The last supper of Jesus does not take place on the holy evening of the Passover, but on the evening before (C. 13,1). So it was self-evident that he had to omit those events, those wonderful events, which only had meaning and significance when the meal was the Passover meal, when it was the meal where Jesus shared the mystery of the Lord’s Supper with his congregation.


Yes, in wanting to tell what happened on this last evening between Jesus and the disciples, the fourth only mentions in passing – as if one already knew something about it! – thus most unattachedly, that it happened at a meal. In a very large and rambling sentence he tells (C. 13, 1 – 4) that Jesus got up from this – casually mentioned – meal and washed the feet of the disciples, and he states why Jesus did it – and how many reasons does he give? 1) Jesus knew that at last his hour had come to depart to the Father, 2) Jesus had always loved his own in this world and loved them to the end, 3) he knew that the Father had given everything into his hands, 4) also that he had come from God and was going to God! In short, the evangelist digs out all his dogmatics to give the reason why Jesus washed the disciples’ feet. How? He washed them because he knew that God had given everything into his hands? Nice reason. Because he knew that he had come from God and was going to God? Good reason! The only other reason could be that he loved the disciples. But must one wash the feet of one whom one loves? The evangelist has not understood Luke’s sentimental remark about Jesus: This expression of tenderness was incorporated into the long remark that Jesus always loved the disciples and loved them to the end, and with this remark, which he also embellished with his other dogmatics, he introduced the story of the washing of the feet, i.e. he used Jesus’ remark in Luke as an introduction to something completely foreign. If, because he had such important dogmatic matters on his mind, he could only casually mention that the following took place at a meal, it is clear that he was not allowed to report anything about the miraculous arrangements for the meal itself.


We now turn back to the Synoptics.

Essentially, apart from the false introduction that Luke gave to his account, it agrees with that of Mark. However, Matthew knows nothing of this miracle; Jesus simply tells the disciples, “Go into the city to a certain man and tell him, ‘The Teacher says: My appointed time is near. I am going to celebrate the Passover with my disciples at your house'” (Matthew 26:18). They did so and prepared the Passover.

What a report! What an instruction: “Go to a certain man”! Who says, when sending others to someone they don’t know, “Go to a certain man”?

Matthew had – who doesn’t understand this? – Matthew had a report before him in which the unknown person was mysteriously made known to the disciples. But since he does not love detail and does not know how to appreciate it, nor does he know how to compress the omission briefly and skilfully and to hide the gap from the eye, he omits the main thing precisely by abbreviating the report, and therefore does not say how the disciples would find the man they did not know, but calls the man a “certain man”, that is, leaves him completely indefinite and assumes – the contradiction is immeasurable – that the disciples would find the “certain man” as this “certain man” who still remains a “certain man”.

In contrast, the original account (Mark 14:12-16) seems to be a model of clarity, and relatively it is: the two disciples whom Jesus sends, when they ask him where they should prepare the Passover (Matthew carelessly only says “the disciples,” while Luke on his own identifies Peter and John as the two, to give the most respected ones the honor of this wonderful task), these two disciples, Jesus says, would find that homeowner if they followed a water carrier whom they would encounter in the city. However, this clarity is only illusory. Not to mention that in a city like Jerusalem, one must encounter many water carriers – was that homeowner known to the Lord and his disciples beforehand or not? He is an unknown person who, through the message of the disciples – “The Teacher says: Where is the guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?” – should be met and offered assistance in a wonderful way. But then Jesus already knew him beforehand as someone who was to be met through a miracle, Jesus knew him as such by virtue of his wonderful insight – so why this wonderful confusion that the disciples should find the man themselves only through a miracle, and even as a result of a miracle that is enormous, as all the water carriers had to be blocked from the streets of Jerusalem except for one single individual?


The miraculous event of the Passover was to throw upon the Supper itself that light in which it is certainly distinguished from every other Supper – – thus the course of events at the Supper itself, the conversations of Jesus, the institution of the Supper, if they are in themselves great, dignified, and important, were not in themselves sufficient to consecrate the Supper and to distinguish it from every other Supper? No! it is also to be glorified by the very first preparations, and by the manner in which these arrangements were made. But Mark did not succeed in forming this marvellous entrance in such a way that we could pass through it without damaging our heads. We must therefore break it down, tear it down, or rather declare that it has already collapsed because it lacks a reasonable foundation.

It is formed after the manner in which Samuel gives Saul landmarks from which he is to recognise that he has given him kingship by divine authority. Mark has extracted from this Old Testament jumble 1) the intention underlying his report, even if it is not emphasised with reflection, that the God-sent should prove his authority through miraculous distant vision, and 2) the trait that those whom the God-sent meet men who carry the means of life. The water jar is taken from the story of Abraham’s servant who went out to fetch a bride for the son of his Lord. Here, however, in both Old Testament models, these things still – i.e. even in their fairy-tale world – have meaning, support and connection. Here, in the second case, the servant is already at his destination, at the well of the city, the daughters of the city come to draw water, and in the one he wants to recognise the bride, who voluntarily agrees to water his camels, too, if he has previously asked her for a drink of water.  Mark has formed a chimera of miracles, when a miracle leads the disciples to the goal, which must first be conquered again by a miracle.


Before we can decide on the core of the report and its historical basis, we must first seek it out, that is, to peel away the strange shells that initially conceal it from us or may be mistaken for it.

We begin with the fourth Gospel, which does not even have a part of the core, the so-called institution of the Lord’s Supper, but instead knows how to report on another action that the Lord committed at the last meal, an action that should be repeated by all of his followers in the future.


2. The washing of the feet.

John 13, 1 – 17.

Jesus “got up from the meal, took off his clothes, took a towel, girded himself with it, poured water into the washbasin – what a dreadful sight to be taken out of every chamber! – and now begins to wash the disciples’ feet and – really? How graphic! – with the towel with which he had girded himself.


In that account, Jesus also comes to Peter, who exclaims in surprise: “Lord, are you going to wash my feet?” We can still accept that. But when Jesus replies, “You do not realize now what I am doing, but later you will understand” – and when this “later” occurs, it is not said, it remains in the mysterious, meaningless suspension that the Fourth [Gospel] loves – and when Peter, with exaggerated emotion, vows that Jesus shall never wash his feet, and Jesus responds, “Unless I wash you, you have no part with me” – we don’t need to hear any further how Peter, with affected vehemence and moody, not even humorous outburst, demands that Jesus should wash his head and hands, and how Jesus replies that only the feet need to be washed if the washed one is to be completely clean – we don’t even need to hear how the Lord adds: “You are clean, but not all of you,” with a sidelong glance at the traitor, so as not to plunge headlong into the most immense confusion, as the Fourth has already acquainted us with such things, but to turn away from a work of this kind with reluctance. So this foot-washing has so many meanings? So many? And they are all mixed up so haphazardly, and only the capricious whims of Peter provide the thread on which these valiant pearls are strung? Or rather: none of these meanings is – as it deserves to be if it were viable – carried through purely or even identified as such, as something special? The confusion is too senseless. The author has considered all sorts of things and made nothing of them.

First, the washing of the feet is based on the love of Jesus. So be it, inasmuch as love is also condescension, although it is impossible to understand why condescension should prove itself in just this form, why just this ornate form should stand so high, why love and condescension should not prove themselves in other far more dignified and difficult forms of devotion, of thinking into, feeling into, and acting for another person!


But now the fact that the disciples’ feet are washed is supposed to be the condition without which they cannot partake of the Lord! What kind of connection is supposed to take place here! And the poor, whom Jesus later did not come to wash the feet of! The Lord’s Supper is something else; not only the disciples who enjoyed it on that Passover evening, but all the later members of the congregation enjoy it.

Yes, that the feet of the disciples should be washed is the condition of their purity. At the Lord’s Supper it is something else; there they drink the blood that was shed for the world.

And what is the point here of the spiteful sidelong glance so often cast at the traitor? In the Gospel of Mark it is something else, for according to his Gospel Jesus only once declares during the Passover meal that his betrayer is sitting at the table with him. But here in the Fourth Gospel the betrayer must literally run the gauntlet. Who will always condemn a man’s crime? Even against the criminal one has to fulfil duties of morality and humanity, as Mark knew very well, and the writer has at the same time to fulfil duties which the laws of beauty prescribe for him. That constant sideways glance at the traitor and, what is more, that contrast with the virtuous haste is therefore not only spiteful and inhuman and immoral, but also tiring and repulsive from an aesthetic point of view. Already earlier, after the conversation about the enjoyment of His flesh and blood, Jesus (C. 6, 70) had called Judas the devil among the twelve, later (C. 12, 6) the traitor had to appear as a common thief, and now in the introduction to the account of the washing of the feet (13, 2) the Fourth could not refrain from remarking that the devil had already put his plan into Judas’ heart. If only this virtuous evangelist had learned from Mark how to present evil humanly and aesthetically: Mark had simply told that Judas had gone to the priests and promised to deliver up his master to them – that’s enough! The contrast is strong enough to require even the expression that Luke first used, and from which the Fourth borrowed, in order to apply it more than once. For Luke, in reporting the betrayal of Judas, says that Satan entered into him, C. 22:3. And yet the Fourth would rather have reported that Judas made an agreement with the priests; but for all his talk about the devil Judas, and for all his delight in his inhuman contrasts, he has neither space, nor time, nor even thought left for such trifles.


Finally, at the end, after having washed the disciples’ feet, Jesus gives a new interpretation of the action, the one that most preoccupies the author and that was probably first in his mind when he described this action, which was so badly introduced. “If he, who is their Lord and Master, has washed their feet, they must also wash each other’s feet. He has given them an example, so that they may follow what he has done. For the servant is not greater than his lord, nor the apostle greater than he that sent him. Also a blessing will be attached to the imitation of the act which expresses mutual submission.”

Yes, with the Lord’s Supper, we exclaim again, it is something quite different. If the new commandment *) of which Jesus speaks after the washing of the feet, as it certainly is, is to refer at the same time to the commandment of this action, then it is, we cry out again and again, something quite different with the new covenant which Jesus gives in his blood.

*) John 13, 34 : εντολήν καινήν. Mark 14, 24 : της καινής διαθήκης.


“So you must also wash one another’s feet!”

No real person acts or speaks like that. Such abstract and thoughtless demands can only be made – if we may misuse the noble word – in an ideal world, and even then, they can only truly be carried out when this intellectual world has already acquired such a hard solidity and man is so captured by it that he has lost reason and sense for the real world. The inverted world of the Church had to already exist before it was possible for a person like the Fourth to imagine such an adventurous, abstract demand for any reason, and that inverted world had to fully acclimatize people before this demand could be implemented.

The Catholic Church was right to take Christ’s commandment as seriously as it is written, although with the best will in the world, which cannot be denied her, she has not gone far in carrying it out. The senseless nature of this commandment is itself to blame for the fact that its implementation in the Church appears only as a fake article or as a showpiece. If Protestantism has declared that this commandment does not belong in the real world, we do not wrong it, but then it should not make so much of the obedience it has pledged to the holy Scriptures.


3. The basis of the account of the washing of the feet.

The occasion which induced the Fourth to form this story just here lies in the Gospel of Luke. Luke reports that during the Passover meal a quarrel arose among the disciples as to which of them was the greatest, and Jesus saw himself compelled to reject them seriously: only in the world do kings rule over others, but it must not be so among them; the greatest among them must rather be the least, the superior of the servants, as he himself proved to be their servant in their midst. (Luke 22, 24-27).


Luke himself has already gone so far as to describe the present situation where he was waiting for them at the table, handing them bread and wine! – The fourth went even further and, as if Jesus had not sufficiently performed this service during his life and even in death, dared to present his Lord as a servant and as a model of condescending love during the washing of the feet. Mark 10: 45 knew better how Jesus proved that he did not come to be served but to serve, namely by giving his life as salvation for many.

The idea that the Lord had only truly and seriously demonstrated his willingness to serve when he served the disciples as a servant, and especially during a meal, was reinforced for the Fourth Gospel by the parable in Luke of the master who serves his faithful servants at the table *) (Luke 12:35-37), a parable whose point Luke had already made by the time he composed the later saying (Luke 22:27).

*) The Fourth Gospel made much more out of the simplicity of Luke’s (verse 37)!

All of those adventurous claims – that foot-washing is the condition for having a share in Jesus, that the disciples are not clean without it, that it is a new commandment that must be repeated – are explained when we see that the Fourth Gospel has transferred the attributes that Jesus ascribes to the new covenant in his blood to his newly invented sacrament.

The question now, whether it was possible in all the world that the disciples could now come up with this absurd question, when the Lord had just given them his body, which was given for them, and his blood, which was poured out for them, especially now that he “opened” to them that he would be betrayed by one of them (Luke 22, 20 – 25) – – it would be ridiculous to treat this question seriously, since it can be seen with one’s own hands, with the eyes of one’s own body, that Luke did not take note of the quarrelling of the disciples, which he already mentioned above (C. 9, 46) to Mark (C. 9, 33), and as an answer of Jesus to Mark he rewrites the rebuke of the two sons of Zebedee (Mark 10, 35) with their rash request and the disciples who were again indignant about the request of John and Jacob, a rebuke that he had omitted before with its cause.


But only that rebuke of the ten he gives here quite literally, the rebuke of the two sons of Zebedee he has significantly changed. When Jesus rebukes them in Luke by asking them if they can drink the cup that he drinks (namely the cup of suffering), Jesus presupposes in the rebuke of the foolish disciples in Luke, which he only admits in Mark after the affirmative answer of the Zebedees, as a certain fact: “you have persevered with me in my temptations” (Luke22, 28). But could they then still be so childish and argue about precedence?

Indeed, it seems highly inconsistent that Jesus would dismiss the request of the sons of Zebedee for seats at his right and left hand in a suitable manner, as seen in Mark’s account, only to then suddenly promise in Luke’s account that they would eat and drink with him in his kingdom and sit on thrones to judge the twelve tribes of Israel. It is a striking contradiction, especially coming from people who had just shared in the cup of suffering.

Only because Jesus uses the image of the cup and speaks of drinking in his rebuke of the Zebedees, did Luke feel justified in excluding these sayings from their true context in his account of the Lord’s Supper, because they also speak of the cup and drinking.


Even more! After Jesus (Mark 14, 22 – 25) had given the disciples the blessed bread and the blessed cup, he said that he would no longer drink of the fruit of the vine until that day when he would drink the new fruit in the kingdom of God. So there is always talk of drinking and the cup: should not a thorough evangelist have collected all the sayings that deal with such things, and especially, in order to prove the unity of the sayings, should he not have included this instruction on future drinking in his rebuke of the jealous disciples?

Of course, he could no longer give those statements the same context as Mark did with the request of the sons of Zebedee for the nearest seats. Rather, the necessity of submission had to be emphasized. Therefore, the context of the disciples arguing about rank in general was more appropriate and relevant. —-

It will do no harm and will not increase the confusion through which we must navigate, since it is only the evangelists who drag us into such confusions, if we remove the following inappropriate element from the account of the Last Supper as we pass by. Suddenly, without any motivation, Jesus says to the disciples (Luke 22:35-38), asking if they lacked anything when he sent them out without a purse, bag or sandals: now things will be different. Whoever has a purse or bag should take it, and whoever has none should sell their cloak and buy a sword. But why this new, striking equipment for people who had previously even come into the world without a purse, bag or sandals? Is it because the prophecy “he was numbered with the transgressors” is now to be fulfilled in him? Are they now supposed to wield swords, now that they have just tasted the new covenant in the blood of the Messiah? By understanding the matter as it should be understood if words have meaning, they say, “Lord, here are two swords!” and he replies, “That is enough.” But now we must again wonder why Jesus, after such a pompous entrance – “sell your cloak and buy swords!” – suddenly finds two swords sufficient.


Everything falls apart. Luke used Jesus’ instruction concerning the equipment of the messengers of faith, which he exaggerated only with regard to the shoes, to speak of a different equipment in contrast to it, because he wanted to introduce the following, that at the arrest of Jesus one of the disciples cut off the ear of the servant of the high priest, and to motivate the question of the disciples, who on this occasion reminded the Lord of his earlier commandment: Lord, shall we strike with the sword? (Luke 22, 49. 50.) In one word: he committed the imprudence of attributing to a plan what should only happen in sudden haste, and he even goes so far as to let Jesus say to the brave heroes, as before: “It is enough!” – let it be good with that. At least what the bravest one did finds no disapproval. Everything is crooked and wrong!


4. The word of Jesus about the traitor.

We are gradually coming to the core of the reports, but will still have to free it from very useless embellishments.

We have already seen how spiteful the sideways glance is that Jesus throws at the traitor after the foot-washing. He says to the disciples (John 13:18), “Not all of you are clean.” He adds, forgetting the rest of the sentence because of his eagerness and many other thoughts in his mind, “I know whom I have chosen.” Then he quickly adds, “But to fulfill the scripture, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.'”


Even now, Jesus continues in v. 19, I am telling you before it happens, so that when it happens you will believe that I am Him. So the Lord always has to think of himself, always has to be pushy, always has to be concerned about his person and authority! It would have been better and more humane if he had thought of others for once, had taken the feelings of the disciples into consideration, and had said, for instance: so that you will not be too much shaken by the monstrosity when it happens. But religion! Religion! The fourth has reflected religiously correctly.

“Henceforth,” says Jesus, απ’ αρτι, “he speaketh unto them of the wicked man, and yet he hath already above called him the devil among the twelve (C. 6, 70).

What is immediately supposed to follow this side-glance with the affirmation “truly, truly I say to you” – with an affirmation that gives the appearance of being the finishing touch to that remark about the traitor – is the statement: “He who receives the one I send receives me, and he who receives me receives the one who sent me.” The Fourth Gospel once again offers us an example of the obscurity and mechanical superficiality that its associative ideas are capable of. In that synoptic passage, the relationship to Jesus is considered only as one that is mediated through the relationship to others, the messengers of faith or the little ones. The thoughtless combination that now, even if only an immediate relationship to Jesus is in question, did not even lead the Fourth Gospel to this passage. His combinations are even more mechanical. It is possible that the synoptic lament over the Baptist and the saying that it would be better for him not to have been born – perhaps with the help of the lament over the one who causes offense in Luke 17:1 – led him to the saying about the person for whom it would be better to have a millstone hung around his neck and be cast into the sea, and thus to the saying about the reception of such a person, in whom one receives Jesus himself (Mark 9:42, 37). However, it is more likely that he took the opportunity of the note in Luke 22:24 about the disciples’ argument about rank at the time of the Last Supper to immediately look up the original passage in Luke 9:48 and Mark 9:37 and to rework the saying about receiving a little one in the way that had already been sanctioned for him by Luke 10:16 and Matthew 10:40. —-


Actually, the Fourth Gospel has Jesus say everything necessary about the traitor, as well as something inappropriate and something that doesn’t belong here. In fact, the Fourth Gospel even makes a pause and a break when it says (v. 21) that Jesus was shaken by this revelation – but no! Immediately, it sets Jesus in motion again to have him say the same thing he just said, even presenting it as something new and unexpected.

Of course! After bringing up the traitor during his metamorphosis of the Last Supper, that is, during the footwashing, the Fourth Gospel must now turn to Mark if he wants to portray the traitor being identified in a way that is prompted by the fact that they are sitting at the table. “Truly I tell you,” Jesus says in Mark 14:18, “one of you will betray me.” Jesus says the same thing in the Fourth Gospel, now that the table scene is being presented (13:21).

Of course – we must now notice further – the other confusion arises from this, that now all at once the banquet begins again from the beginning, whereas before we should have thought it was over when Jesus got up to wash the disciples’ feet. Of course, the Fourth jumps so unconcernedly into the synoptic track that he does not even tell us a word about the fact that the company sat down again quietly at the table after the washing of the feet. He lets Mark see to it that they sit at the table during the following scene.

To thank Mark for saving him so much trouble, he enriches his report with many new discoveries. How beautiful, for example, is the remark in the beginning that the disciples (v. 22) “looked at each other” after Jesus’ opening, “since they – wonderful remark! – they did not know whom he meant. “How interesting is the note about the curious Peter, who beckons to the disciple with his eyes that he should ask the Master who it is. Ha! As if every reader did not know – for that is all that matters in this world – who it was; as if it were not enough if the Lord only showed that he knew the traitor, and if he spoke of the blackness of the deed!


The contrast is terrible, that the beloved disciple nestles against the Lord’s breast just to learn more about the devil. The beloved disciple nestles against Jesus’ breast just to ask about the rejected one! At the breast of Jesus! Yes, if he had hugged the Lord in pain, smothered him with kisses, to show him that he still had faithful followers! No, at the breast of his Lord and Master, he knows nothing else to do but to satisfy his curiosity. What kind of people!en!

The following contrast, that Jesus says to his favourite disciple: it is he to whom I shall give the morsel which I am about to dip, not only carries to extremes the disgustingly secret and hidden character of this whole situation, but is even completely useless in so far as the Evangelist completely forgets Peter and lets him, like the others, find out about the matter – for so we may express ourselves according to the interest which these creatures of the Fourth have – only afterwards, but soon thereafter in the Garden of Gethsemane. Admittedly, however, that police signal was only intended to blatantly secure the statement that Jesus was not mistaken about the person of his traitor

Because if he did not do it – perhaps even to make this theatrical coup that the devil entered the betrayer’s body with that bite – then when he now says, “The evil one went away,” when it is now night, and Jesus immediately goes into the Garden of Gethsemane, we do not understand how Judas could have quickly gathered the priesthood, brought them to a decision late in the evening, and sent a cohort of soldiers and the priests’ servants to that garden. The confusion is as wild as possible, and in its tumult, we will let Jesus’ words to the betrayer, “What you are about to do, do quickly!” (v. 27) fade away. Because it does not deserve more. It is disgusting enough to be destined to paint calm spiritual calmness, but it only shows an irritated mood and forms a resentful and at the same time splayed-out challenge.


However, no one knows who the betrayer is, no one knows what these last words of Jesus mean. The beloved disciple is enthroned above all the others as omniscient and tickles himself over his omniscience, while the others grope in the dark. To them, Judas is still simply the treasurer – a dignity from which we have finally freed him! So when they – how curious! – speculate back and forth whether Jesus may have given him orders to make purchases for the feast or to give alms, we hear from these conjectures of the curious children nothing more than the disguised voice of the Fourth, who wants to remind us once again under this mask that this last meal of Jesus was not the Passover evening meal. Tomorrow is the Passover evening.

Now the Synoptics! Matthew as well as Mark let it be the first thing immediately after the beginning of the meal that Jesus speaks of the betrayer – rightly so! for this contrast, that the hand of the betrayer is over the table, must be settled as soon as possible, so that afterwards the banquet proceeds without disturbing thoughts. Luke only brings up the betrayer after the distribution of the blessed bread and cup (Luke 22:21), but why did he also let an intruder and outsider take the entrance, i.e. the only suitable place, with that sentimental remark (v. 15)?


Matthew presents the matter in such a way that Jesus initially says indeterminately, “Truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” The disciples become sad and ask, “Is it I?” But we do not understand how they can still ask such a question. For Jesus had said two days before that he would be crucified at the Passover feast (chapter 26, verse 2), so now, with the festival approaching, the innocent ones could no longer ask so uncertainly. The betrayer must have already been decided and – taken steps.

Jesus answers: he who has dipped his hand into the bowl with me – we should think: just now – will betray me – a designation that is as indefinite as it is useless. Which guest will pay attention to which of the thirteen sitting at the table dips into the bowl; and do all see this movement, a movement even, which, as soon as it is noticed, is forgotten again? And if the mark, which is supposed to look so definite and clear, were really so infallible, could Judas still ask afterwards: is it I Master? (v. 25) so that Jesus would have to say to him again publicly in front of the others: you said it?

However, if this had really exposed the betrayer, it would have been embarrassing and unbearable.

However, Judas’ question, “Is it I?” is not only incomprehensible if that sign – as it is supposed to be – was clear and accurate, but it is also inappropriate in terms of the context, given that Jesus had just said, “Woe to the man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed! It would have been better for him if he had not been born!” After such a statement, would Judas still have dared to ask that question? Historically impossible and aesthetically repugnant!

In the account of Mark, which Luke has only drawn together, we find everything in order. First Jesus says: truly I say to you, one of you will betray me *), and then when the disciples ask: is it I? – but they are allowed to ask this here, since Jesus had not said anything before that he would be crucified on Passover – he replies: yes, it is one of the twelve, one who dips into the bowl with me. This is not a police signal, but the intensifying repetition of the terrible fact that it really is one of the twelve – an expression of pain borrowed from the lament of the righteous Ps. 41, 10, that his neighbour, his house- his table- comrade is persecuting him. Only Matthew made his police signal from it, which the Fourth has made even more specific.

*) The addition: “who eats with me” ο εσθιων μετ εμου Mark 14, 18 is of course, as Wilke p. 274 remarks, from a late hand. The Psalm passage Ps. 41, 10 ὁ ἐσθίων ἄρτους μου Mark first worked into Jesus’ answer v. 20: εμβαπτομενος μετ εμου εις το τρυβλιον. The later glossator did not notice in what the progress in the two sayings of Jesus lay.


In this, too, Mark has shown a wise skill, that he holds back the matter in general and with the contrasts that Matthew and the Fourth painted so glaringly: the traitor does not appear with an insolent brow, he is not mentioned at all.

The whole scene arose from that Psalm word. In order for the Lord to become like the righteous man of that psalm, he had to be betrayed by his closest comrade; in order for the blackness of the betrayal to be heightened by the contrast, the Lord had to complain about it at the love feast, and he had to signal the betrayal in general, so that it would not seem as if, contrary to his suspicions, he were surprised by it afterwards.


5. The attitude of the betrayer.

As soon as one raises the question why Judas betrayed his Lord, and raises it in the sense that he is not satisfied with the statements of Scripture, and supposes other motives by which the betrayal can really be explained, he is very unbelieving.

Is it not enough that Luke says that Satan entered Judas, or is it not explanation enough when the Fourth defines this note in more detail, that the entry of Satan happened at the moment when Judas swallowed that morsel?

Furthermore: when Mark reports (C. 14, 11) that the chief priests, out of joy over the unexpected request of Judas, promised him money and that he now sought opportunity to betray his Lord, when Luke then (C. 22, 6) reports in more detail that Judas accepted the offer of money and agreed to the proposal, when finally Matthew presents the matter in such a way that Judas immediately goes before the priests with the question: what will you pay me to deliver him into your hands and agrees to their proposal that they want to give him thirty pieces of silver? of the betrayal become viciously clear? And one still ponders over motives? O hypocrites!

We did not want to remember the ridiculous unbelief of the theologians in any of these passages. We shall also remain true to our resolution, and here, in a passage which is based on a specifically religious view, we shall only remember the view of a philosopher who has made this very religious view his own, albeit in a somewhat modernised form.

Religion only achieves its fulfillment when it dissolves all determination and finds its true element in an indeterminate rushing. If Christianity was already the fulfillment of religion, as it killed the moral and vital interests of other religions, it still increases in perfection when even the small determination that it still possesses is dissolved.

Therefore, the discussion of the matter will not lead us anywhere if we forget the devil and the thirty pieces of silver. For the critic, for humanity, there is no longer a devil who leads his chimerical life over the ruins of humanity and governs over these ruins at will, especially not a devil who enters the mouth of a person with a bite of bread. The bestial and shameless question of Judas, “What will you give me?” and the offer of the priests to give thirty pieces of silver, no longer impress us, because both, and especially the former, which is very bad, were copied by Matthew from Zechariah. In the scripture of the prophet, the shepherd of the people demands his reward and is given, as a mockery, thirty pieces of silver. *) Mark was smart enough to see that the sum, which in the Old Testament was a contemptible mockery, could not have tempted Judas to his actions. He borrowed only the notation from the prophet that the Messiah could be sold for money if he was to prove himself as the promised one.

*) Zacharias 11, 12: δότε τον μισθόν μου- και έστησαν τον μισθών τριάκοντα αργυρούς , Matth. 26, 15. 16: τι θέλετε μοι δούναι και έστησαν αυτώ τριάκοντα αργύρια.


It even does no harm that we have now dissolved the whole report; all the better for religious consciousness, which feels better nowhere than in a vacuum. Now that the levers of money and the devil have been broken, Weisse can say all the more freely that the motive of the betrayal was a thoroughly evil one **). But no matter how much this view, which Weisse does not even do this time, may be embellished, i.e., no matter how novelistically the intense effort of the ego, which belongs to such a decisive opposition to what is absolutely good, may be painted: – it is still in vain, because the thought that there could be “an absolutely malignant character, an absolutely malignant motive” is just as chimerical and hollow as the thought of an absolutely good character and motive. But this chimera is specifically religious, but only because it is a chimera: in reality this vacuous and uneducated opposition of understanding has no validity, no life, no existence and instead of this, the selfish and the general interests of human life interpenetrate in all characters, motives, and actions. There is no absolutely good man who would be nothing and further nothing but a little lamb, as little as something purely evil, i.e., for instance, an action in which the ego as a purely special – filled with no other interest – ego revolts against the general as such – as if there were a pure, abstract general! – rebelled. Only religion knows these bottomless contradictions. Even in the extreme – romantically inflated – case that an individual rebels against another purely and solely because the latter is good, this is only appearance; the rebellion is not directed against the good as such, but against the fact that this individual happens to be good or is supposed to be good or claims to be good or purely and simply good. Rather, the one who only wants to be a little lamb insults the dignity of humanity, and whoever wants to be simply and purely good mocks the specific moral obligations.

**) I, 451


The question as to how it came about that Jesus accepted a “thoroughly malignant” character among the Twelve, and that Judas joined the Lord, we answer by deleting it, for we no longer know the absurdity of a thoroughly malignant being, and the conception of this circle of disciples known to us in the Gospels has long since dissolved.

But perhaps it is worth the effort to see how Weisse has perfected the religious answer to this question *).

*) I, 395 – 397.

“He says there is a moral relationship between good and evil individuals.” But are the evil still simply evil if they are capable of a moral relationship, even if it is only in the form of tension? “There may also be a moral duty or obligation of the good towards the evil. Jesus did not deceive himself about the character of Judas at the beginning. However, he did not reject the man, because otherwise discord could have been aroused among his disciples and followers, and because he would then have had to forego the support of Judas.” — Nothing but meticulous cleverness on the part of the purely good and nothing less than a moral relationship! But! “Jesus included Judas among his own as a testimony and example of the divine work and as a memorial to that world destiny which happened during this earthly existence – – what a pity! – – does not lead to a sharp external separation between good and evil” etc. etc. — still not a moral, not even an inner relationship, but the opposite, when a person is mechanically used as a “monument”, and as a monument to a chimera at that! Certainly, good and evil are mixed in this world, but not so that pure saints and anointed ones and pure evil, pure sheep and pure goats are mixed together, but rather so that both powers of the antithesis rest and struggle together in every human soul, and so that evil is only a moment in the development of good itself. Finally, when Weiße says that the mind of the evil is no less susceptible to the spiritual power of great personalities than the mind of the good, and when he now adds, according to his theological assumptions, that such a power exerted the personality of Christ on Judas, we grant him the latter application and its historical presupposition, and in relation to the intention we only ask: why all the fuss beforehand?


6. The institution of the Lord’s Supper.

The critic has no more material interest which could make him biased, if it depends on explaining the mottoes with which Jesus hands over to his disciple the blessed bread and the blessed wine at the Passover meal, appropriately and correctly in their sense.


In Mark and Matthew these words agree completely, i.e. Matthew, because he knew the importance of them and because he rightly believed to have to give them in the authentic form, has copied the report of Mark verbatim – and who will not copy a testament exactly? According to him, as well as Mark, the Lord, as he distributed the bread, said, “Take and eat, this is my body,” and as he handed the cup, “Drink all of it, for (Matthew could not resist changing this; when Mark reports that the disciples drank from the offered cup, he gave this fact in the form of a command and made the transition to the interpretation of the miraculous wine with “for,” while Jesus according to Mark only says what follows further in Matthew: –) “This is my blood, the blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” — as Matthew adds, but which is not added by Mark, who rightly aimed for brevity and simplicity of the formula: “for the forgiveness of sins.”

The critic must not allow himself to be impressed by the fact that a religious conception is difficult, hard to carry out, mystical, mysterious or excessively transcendent, or that it violates all perception and sensual certainty too much. Rather, he knows that no contradiction is too great for the religious view, none is nearly great enough, and his task is not to mitigate those contradictions, or to make them plausible to the mind, or to stifle them by force, but to understand them as contradictions and to explain their origin.

By offering the disciples bread and wine, Jesus does not instruct them on how they could remotely relate these foods to his body and blood, nor does he say that even the components of the Passover meal remind him of his sufferings – in this case he should rather have thought of the Passover lamb. Rather, by handing bread and wine to his people and asking them to enjoy them, he tells them what both are to be for the enjoyment and in such a way that the request to eat and drink refers in one moment to the sensual substrates and to what they actually are, to the body and his blood.


Therefore, it is clear that Jesus did not speak these words. A person who sits bodily and individually cannot come up with the idea of offering his body and blood for others to consume. It is impossible for him to demand that others have a certain understanding while he sits bodily, that they consume him in the bread and wine. It was only later, after his bodily, individual appearance was removed, and even then, only after the community had already existed for some time, that the belief could arise that found expression in that formula.

The anachronism and contradiction that arises from the fact that these words are attributed to the Lord becomes starkly evident when it is said, “This is the blood that is shed for many *).” This could not have been offered by Jesus before his death because blood becomes true sacrificial blood only after it is shed. Before it is sacrificed, before it is shed and served as a sacrifice, it is not sacrificial blood and cannot be referred to or consumed as such, meaning Jesus could not have offered the blood that was shed for many before his death.

*) Mark 14:24 το περι πολλων εκχυνομενον. Compare Luke 11:50 το εκχυνομενον απο καταβολης κοσμου.

Moving on to Luke, we find that the remark made by Jesus, which is placed at the end in Mark, namely, that he will no longer drink of the fruit of the vine, is not placed there at the end by Luke because he had too many other things to report, such as the word about the traitor and the story of the dispute over rank among the disciples. He used it as a sentimental introduction and doubled it by having Jesus say the same thing twice, first in reference to the Passover meal — “I will not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God”!! — and then in reference to the cup, which Jesus blessed and handed to the disciples for distribution. However, since he also read elsewhere that Jesus distributed the wine only after the distribution of bread and called it his blood, he could not make this explanation at that first wine distribution. He had to come back to the matter after that inappropriate introduction: Jesus distributed the bread, and then “after the meal” he handed the cup, which he called the new covenant in his blood. (22, 14-20.)


Luke has Jesus say, “This is my body, which is given for you,” as he hands the bread to the disciples, a statement that corresponds to the other statement, “which is poured out for you.” Then, when it is said of the cup, “This cup — the verb is missing — is the new covenant in my blood,” it is not so different from the formula in the earlier gospel that it is worth discussing, but it is more important when the explanation is added: “Do this in remembrance of me.”

Instead of asking whether this addition explicitly requires a figurative interpretation of that formula, we must rather note that, in connection with the preceding words, “This is my body!” it has no meaning, and therefore it cannot truly influence its interpretation. However, it has no meaning in itself and only gains any sense at all if we relate it back to the presupposition that underlies it.

“Do this in remembrance of me!” But what? Celebrate the Passover annually in his memory? It is not said!


The bread and wine of the Passover and in both his body and blood to partake in remembrance of him? But when? How often? Is wine and bread the main thing at the Passover? The bread perhaps as the unleavened one is important, but – if the words were really spoken at a Passover meal – where is the lamb? About all of this, nothing is said. Nothing is said at all. Rather, it is spoken in such a way that the assumption of the celebration, the assumption of all that they usually enjoy in this meal, is already established, so spoken in such a way that the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is already assumed, and under this assumption those words should only command them to use this celebration as a remembrance of the Lord. But even this assumption is not even explicitly stated, because Luke is not copying the whole passage from a letter of Paul that he has in front of him now, but only borrows the key points that are important to him at this moment. *)

*) That Paul lets the Lord say: this is my body, which is broken for you (χλωμενον) I Cor. 11, 2i. we would not mention, if it were not important for the criticism of Luke’s account. For when the latter writes: which is given for you, the anachronism of the words: which is shed for you, seems to be avoided. But the matter would still remain in its confusion, if at one time the sacrifice is described as imminent, at another time as past and offered. Yes, the confusion would even be brought about most unnecessarily, since Luke, when he (v. 20) copies Paul’s words: “this cup is the new covenant in my blood” (I Cor. 11, 25), not only omits the tense word, but also borrows from Mark the addition: “which is poured out for you”, thus giving a sentence that is without any context and lacks any sense of structure. Only in the explanation of the bread Paul used a participle: “this is my body which is broken for you”, the explanation of the cup he gives with the words: this “is the new covenant in my blood”. Now Luke arrived at his participle of the present tense, “which is given for you,” only by substituting for the expression Paul used (which is broken for you) another that could not have been more inappropriately chosen in this context, within this construction, within the presupposition that dominates this passage.  The anachronism, which could not be misunderstood in the account of Mark, has also received its pure expression in the words of Paul; for is not the expression: which is broken, formed only after the late custom of the breaking of bread and at that time, when the celebration of the Lord’s Supper at all was briefly called the breaking of bread? And don’t those words speak of the Christian to whom the breaking of bread was a prevailing custom, present to him? And is not the same in the words: “the new covenant in my blood” the covenant, the very covenant consecrated by the sacrificial death of Zesu, is already presupposed as made?

According to Paul, Luke notes that Jesus distributed the cup after the meal. However, this pragmatic remark in Paul’s account is not very satisfying as it separates the distribution of the bread and the presentation of the cup, rather than connecting them. It is even more inappropriate in a historical work where, later, when Jesus says (Luke 22:21) “The hand of him who is betraying me is with me on the table,” it is assumed that the meal has not yet ended.  While Wilke has argued that the second cup distribution in verse 20 is a later insertion, Luke is responsible for this confusion. As we have already explained, the confusion arose from the lack of a clear and complete account of the Last Supper in the earlier sources. Therefore, the second cup distribution in verse 20 is essential and cannot be omitted. Luke would not have neglected to include it.


In the words that Paul puts in the mouth of his master and teacher, however, the same contradiction is contained, but it is not as glaring as in the writing of Luke, because it is more developed and not so much compressed into one point. When Jesus distributes the bread and declares it to be his body, he says, “Do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor 11:24), but later, when he distributes the cup, he says more specifically in verse 25, “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” It is certainly better, but the contradiction remains, as the new instruction that the disciples should repeat this action was not commanded or explained beforehand, nor was anything said about the manner of repetition. In short, these words were only formed under the assumption of an already existing practice, an assumption that was so familiar to Paul that he did not notice the anachronism.


In any case, Paul is not inclined towards a figurative interpretation of the words of institution. He simply wants to remind his believers that they should celebrate and partake in the holy meal in the proper manner: “For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord’s death till he come,” the apostle immediately adds as an explanation of those words, in verse 26. “But this bread is the body of Jesus, and remains so,” because whoever, in verse 27, partakes of this bread or cup of the Lord unworthily, has committed a sin against the body of the Lord and eats and drinks judgment upon himself, as he does not handle the body of the Lord  (μη διακρινων) discreetly.

We hear nothing in the first history of the community about a usage of the formula during the celebration of the Lord’s Supper. Paul, least of all, thinks of citing his own usage at this moment as one that was in use among the community. On the contrary, he has just formed it according to the assumptions of the community. But he did not form it successfully, insofar as he wove an exhortation and reflection into it that refers to later usage and even presupposes it as already existing.

Mark gave the formula that brevity and simplicity which it must have in a work of history *), Lukas has taken away the strength and conciseness of the lapidary style which the first gospel writer had given to the formula by adding the appendix that he took from the edifying treatise of the apostle Paul. But the fourth gospel writer went infinitely further: he had the Lord give a sermon on the consumption of his flesh and blood, just as he had already identified him as the one who could provide the true miraculous wine. Both times when Jesus demonstrated himself as the wine and bread provider, the Passover was near; this supply was intended to be in an inner relationship to the last Passover supply, which the fourth gospel writer only did not explicitly mention because he knew that it was already known to everyone at his time, and because he thought that he would only give it true consecration when he had the Master prophesy it, typify it, and speculate on it. For a similar reason, when he departs from his disciples, Jesus cannot just institute the baptism at that moment; no! He must already speculate about their necessity in conversation with Nicodemus, and he must already baptize himself, even if only through his disciples.

*) The form he has taken from Exod. 24, 8: λαβὼν δὲ Μωυσῆς τὸ αἷμα κατεσκέδασε τοῦ λαοῦ καὶ εἶπεν- ἰδοὺ τὸ αἷμα τῆς διαθήκης, ἧς διέθετο . . . 


That the thought from which the account of the wedding at Cana arose is not carried out purely by the Fourth, that strange tendencies again cross the account, can no longer surprise us: the lack of plastic force has now clearly revealed itself to us in all sections of the Fourth Gospel. Even the miraculous feeding of the people has to be put in a skewed, unfavorable light in the following discussion about the bread of life.

Now it is also time to notice that the blessing and thanksgiving that Jesus pronounces over bread and wine, here in the Gospels, where the celebration of the Lord’s Supper is already presupposed as existing, is no longer to be understood in the sense of the Jewish passover rite, but rather as that blessing with which one in the community initiated this celebration in order to distinguish this wine and bread from any other.

The question whether Judas, the Berean, also took part in this meal and ate the judgment, is now finally answered.

Nothing is left to us as historical. Jesus did not institute this meal. It is a gradual transformation of the Jewish celebration of the Passover meal that arose in the community. The idea of the atonement and covenant sacrifice that is already inherent in the Passover sacrifice had to become increasingly important to the Christian consciousness as it developed in opposition to the Jewish one, until it finally became simply the prototype of the true sacrifice, gaining significance only as this prototype, and finally the conviction took hold that in the bread and wine – the lamb as an organic food item receded into the background – one no longer had to do with only the shadow of the future, but actually consumed the true sacrifice itself, his flesh and his blood.


Earlier, in our criticism of the fourth Gospel, we were satisfied with the observation that it would have contradicted the infinity of Jesus’ self-consciousness if he had wanted to establish a positive statute himself. Now, however, we must finally take away the transcendental character of this turn of phrase, which still presupposes and presents the principle as an empirical person. We must now express ourselves in such a way that the principle could not immediately create positive statutes such as the celebration of the Lord’s Supper in the Christian sense at the beginning; before it gained the strength to do so, it had to develop itself and especially develop within the forms of Jewish life in order to gradually break them up and draw a new growth from the core in the new world.




17. Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Pt.17

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by Earl Doherty


Jesus Tradition in the Acts of the Apostles



  • Ehrman accepts Acts as reliable history
  • Acts as a second century product
  • Judas treated as an historical figure
  • More Aramaic tradition?
  • Quoting Paul quoting Jesus
  • The speeches in Acts
  • Adoptionism: Jesus becomes God’s son
  • Tracing the sequence of ideas about Jesus
  • Syncretizing two separate movements


* * * * *

Canonical Sources Outside the Gospels and Paul

(Did Jesus Exist? pp. 106-113)


In the midst of addressing the testimony to an historical Jesus in epistles both canonical and outside the New Testament, Bart Ehrman devotes several pages to the “Jesus Tradition in Acts.” In introducing Acts he fails to enlighten his readers that there is great uncertainty within mainstream scholarship over the historical reliability of the content of this document. Furthermore, he accepts without question that the author of Luke was the author of Acts, and thus what was known to the former was known to the latter.

Is Acts reliable history?

Ehrman fails to question any aspect of this ‘history’ of the spread of the faith. He treats everything from Acts as though it were part of known Christian tradition, and as reliable as anything else. . . .

— No matter that the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is nowhere mentioned in the epistles (despite their focus on inspiration and revelation).

— No matter that the figure and martyrdom of Stephen is nowhere attested to outside Acts.

— No matter that in Acts the settling of the issue of requirements for gentile converts is presented in an Apostolic Council which the authentic Pauline letters seem to know nothing about.

— Nor is the dramatic shipwreck episode at the end of Acts mentioned by early writers who talk about Paul, inviting us to see it as sheer fiction, emulating a popular element in second century Hellenistic romances. (The so-called “we” passages, often alleged to be from a Lukan journal, have also been identified as a common literary feature in recounting travel by sea, such as is found in earlier parts of Acts surrounding such travels.)

When and why was Acts written?

There is also no discussion about the dating of this document.

Ehrman places it in the most traditional position, some time in the 80s of the first century, shortly after the most traditional dating of the Gospel of Luke, c.80 CE. No mention is made that much critical scholarship has moved toward a date at least a couple of decades, sometimes more, into the second century (Townsend, Mack, O’Neill, Tyson, Pervo). And, of course, no mention that the first attestation to Acts comes around 175 in Irenaeus, with possibly an allusion to it a decade or so earlier in Justin. That such a ‘history’ could have lain unnoticed for so long if it had been written a century earlier (or more, for those who maintain it was written before Paul’s death), is not considered worthy of note.

As long ago as 1942, John Knox (Marcion and the New Testament) presented a compelling case that Acts was not written until the 140s or 150s, an ecclesiastical product to counter Marcion’s appropriation of Paul in which he used the letters to demonstrate that Paul operated independently of the Jerusalem apostles and with a very different view of Jesus.

Thus, Acts was written and designed to show the opposite, that Paul immediately upon his conversion subordinated himself to the pillars and subscribed to their teachings, lock, stock and circumcision. Which is why the speeches in Acts, clearly composed by the author, show the identical content between those of Peter and those of Paul. (Neither does Ehrman discuss the considerable discrepancies between Acts and the Pauline epistles.)

Independent witnesses to Judas’ death

Ehrman hardly covers himself in glory with his treatment of the figure of Judas in Acts. According to him,

the author of Acts has access to traditions that are not based on his Gospel account so that we have yet another independent witness. (DJE? p. 107)

Independent from whom? Was Luke the author of the Gospel “independent” of Luke the author of Acts? It seems that for Ehrman every saying or anecdote which can be found nowhere else, or fails to agree with some other version of that saying or anecdote, constitutes an “independent witness” to the historical Jesus. Continue reading “17. Earl Doherty’s Response to Bart Ehrman’s Case Against Mythicism – Pt.17”


Judas Did Not Exist

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by Neil Godfrey

Иуда. 1874
Judas by Fyodor Bronnikov; Image via Wikipedia

Some people might be disturbed at the suggestion that Jesus did not exist, but surely all good people would be happily hopeful were they to hear an argument that very symbol of anti-Semitism has been nothing more substantial than an unhappy fiction. After reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s Liberating the Gospels: Reading the Bible with Jewish Eyes some years ago I was naive enough to conclude that most biblical scholars (of the nonfundamentalist variety) were well aware of the evidence that Judas was nothing more than a literary creation. I would still like to think that is the case, and that those scholarly works that speak of Judas as a real person of history who in fact did betray his master really are an aberrant minority in the current field of Gospel scholarship.

Don’t misunderstand, though. By no means does John Shelby Spong deny the historicity of Jesus.

Is there then no literal history that is reflected at the heart of the Christian story? Yes, of course there is; but it is not found in the narrative descriptions of Jesus’ last days. (p. 258)

But who was Judas?

  • Was he a person of history who did all of the things attributed to him? . . .
  • Or was there but a bare germ of truth in the Judas story, on which was heaped the dramatic portrait that we now find in the Gospels? Can we identify the midrashic tradition at work in the various details that now adorn his life? . . .
  • Or was he purely and simply a legendary figure invented by the Christians as a way to place on the backs of the Jewish people the blame for the death of Jesus?

(p. 259, my formatting)

The rest of the post follows Spong’s argument that Judas was created by “Christians [who] made Jews, rather than the Romans, the villains of their story. [Spong] suggest[s] that this was achieved primarily by creating a narrative of a Jewish traitor according to the midrashic tradition out of the bits and pieces of the sacred scriptures and by giving that traitor the name Judas, the very name of the nation of the Jews.” (p. 276)

It may be possible to quibble over Spong’s use of the term “midrash”, which some scholars define as something that is known among the Dead Sea Scrolls but not quite found in the Gospels. But regardless of the term used, the identification of the details of the Judas narrative in the Hebrew Scriptures remains a telling argument that Judas was a literary creation of the Gospel authors.

The post is in two parts. The first part here outlines the main argument for Judas being a late fictional creation and reflecting a mounting anti-semitism within the Church. The second part looks in more detail at the inconsistencies with which the different Gospels present the Judas narrative.

Continue reading “Judas Did Not Exist”


The historical truth about Judas Iscariot

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by Neil Godfrey

"The Kiss of Judas" is a traditional...
Image via Wikipedia

Maurice Casey has explained the motive of Judas Iscariot, his level of literacy, his religious interest, his worship customs before he met Jesus, and along the way has proved the historical factness of Mark’s account of Judas’s betrayal of Jesus. This is all included in Jesus of Nazareth.

Firstly, the key to understanding Judas’s motive lies in understanding his place of origin. Casey begins by explaining that his point is only a “may have been”, but by the time he finishes his explanation all such qualifiers have disappeared.

The last man in Mark’s list is Judas Iscariot. . . . This means that his name was Judah. His epithet [of Kerioth]. . . locates him as a man from a village in the very south of Judaea rather than Galilee. It is accordingly probable that he could speak and read Hebrew as well as Aramaic. His origins may have been fundamental to his decision to hand Jesus over to the chief priests, for he may have been more committed to the conventional running of the Temple than the Galilaean members of the Twelve. (pp. 191-2) Continue reading “The historical truth about Judas Iscariot”


The Twelve Disciples: their names, name-meanings, associations, etc

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by Neil Godfrey

This post is nothing more than a bit of idle trivia per se. But maybe Kakadu Dreamtime wisdom somewhere says “Clever bower bird can find something among trivia to relocate so it has power to attract a mate.”

The data comes primarily (not exclusively) from two sources:

The Gospel of Mark as Midrash on Earlier Jewish and New Testament Literature by Dale and Patricia Miller (marked with *)

The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man: How Reliable is the Gospel Tradition by Robert M. Price (marked with *)

Both these works discuss some of the following name-meanings within a broader context of what the various gospel authors were attempting to convey through their characters. But for most part here I’m skipping that side of the discussion.

Continue reading “The Twelve Disciples: their names, name-meanings, associations, etc”


Recent developments in the Gospel of Judas debate

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by Neil Godfrey

Little doubt that the tenor of the April DeConick translation is winning open misere. The National Geographic and its translators have been paid their silver for betraying the real Judas. Suspect some would rather hang DeConick than themselves now they’ve been found out, though.

The National Geographic and one of its translators of the Gospel of Judas have replied to April DeConick’s criticism of their translation and publication that portrays Judas as the one disciple with the true spiritual understanding of Jesus. Actually that’s not strictly correct. At least one of the replies seemed to studiously avoid DeConick’s specific criticisms.

There are two discussions on the internet addressing this debate between DeConick and the National Geographic translation.

1. The April DeConick Reinterprets the Gospel of Judas thread on the Biblical Criticism and History section of the Internet Infidels discussion board. This thread goes back to late October but is well worth scanning for background alerts on the underlying issues of treatment of the original evidence, past form of some of the players, in particular custodians of source documents, etc. — e.g. point blank refusal to make public the full size images of original manuscripts.

2. Of course there is also April DeConick’s latest blog post with discussion of the most recent New York Times response by the National Geographic and one of the translators. (See also earlier responses to DeConick’s translation and post to the New York Times on the same blog.)


“We need a good Judas”

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by Neil Godfrey

April DeConick’s blog has linked to a Macleans.ca article about The Thirteenth Apostle in which two motives underlying the National Geographic’s publication of the “good Judas” translation of the Gospel of Judas.

In my own comments on DeConick’s book I referenced her discussion of reasons why some people want to find a good motive for Judas

  • She suggests with Professor Louis Painchaud that since World War 2 and the Holocaust, and the widespread anti-Semitism preceding those years, there has been a powerful cultural need to absolve our collective guilt over the treatment of the Jews. And this compulsion has led us to reappraise our portrayals of the bad Jew/Judah/Judas embedded in our foundational Christian myth. So much for Maloney and Archer’s collaboration on their fictional cum theological treatise of their Judas gospel!

This point is underscored in the Macleans.ca article:

When she discussed her findings at a conference, one colleague responded, “I don’t see why Judas can’t be good; we need a good Judas.” DeConick says, “I stopped in my tracks. I realized that people were reading Judas positively because they wanted, however unconsciously, a good Judas. Everything that could be tweaked in that direction was. I think our communal psyche, knowing how Judas the betrayer always functioned as a justification for atrocities against Jews, wants to explain him, wants to take the guilt of Christ’s death from him.” Even if we have to make it up.

There should be nothing surprising about this. Albert Schweitzer long ago famously noted that scholars who write about the historical Jesus are writing about the Jesus they want to see. The evidence is so scant that it is quite possible to construct from it a political revolutionary Jesus, a miracle working magician Jesus, a mystical other-wordly Jesus, a Cynic sage, a Pharisee, . . . See Peter Kirby’s Historical Jesus theories site for a good coverage. This fact alone ought to be a flag to tell us that there is something fundamentally wrong with studies about Jesus. What other historical character can raise such opposing arguments as to his purpose and teachings? Does not such extreme and opposing diversities even slightly hint at many self-important onlookers attempting to describe the clothes of the naked emperor?

But the problem is not simply the paucity of the evidence. It is the cultural matrix in which such studies feed and breathe. Can anyone really imagine a scholarly view of Jesus that came down on the side of a view expressed in some of the noncanonical texts — maybe one that went so far as to suggest that the original Jesus was none of the above but as much a metaphorical construct as Adam, a derivation of Wisdom, or an Illuminator who evolved to take on human and historical trappings? Those who do attempt such a model of Christian origins quickly find themselves on the outside of academia’s circled wagons. There is simply too much at stake, it seems, for anything more than bold claims that the evidence is too strong to doubt the basic orthodox (really Lucan-Eusebian) model despite all its scholarly nuances that and mutations. I have not seen any of those bold claims about thorough examination of the evidence for a historical Jesus at the core of any model of Christian origins justified. Each time I have attempted to follow through and examine them I find nothing but simplistic dot-points of arguments that I know have been either found to be circular or without foundation.

It would be nice to think that the controversy that will hopefully avalanche from the clash of the National Geographic’s and April DeConick’s translations of Judas will prise open a wider debate about not just the role of Judas in our culture and scholarship, but the very origins of Christianity itself.

Till then, maybe we need to find a document and a publisher that gives us a good Goliath. Something to redress the post-war bifurcation of anti-Semitism that has transferred the fundamentally bad Semite to the Arab leaving the Jew the fundamentally good one. Why not? The cause is good. The intellectual honesty is no less than that which sees a “need for a good Judas”.

(I’m joking — about the need for a good Goliath thing. We need human David’s and human Goliath’s or human creator of these characters , not actors in a some biblical pantomine.) It appears to me as an outsider that biblical scholarship has, with rare exceptions, failed to accept responsibility for wider cultural enlightenment.

But I should be philosophical. Isn’t this the way history has always worked? Isn’t that the historical job of intellectuals? To support the status quo? And the myths it finds so useful to support all sorts of behaviours?


Critical edition of the Gospel of Judas / Tchacos Codex

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by Neil Godfrey

Roger Pearse has noted the very quiet release of the critical edition of the gospel in contrast to the sensational publicity of the initial translation.

Check his The Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot) site.

Roger has compiled there a vast list of reports that together show the “curious backstory” to the whole saga leading to the National Geographic’s release of the gospel.

DeConick comments on the critical edition in her book:

At this time, the critical edition of the Tchacos Codex has just been released by National Geographic. Now begins the long and arduous process of critically evaluating the transcription against the photographs and the originals. So any translation remains provisional until this evaluation is completed. (p.65)

Related posts


Mark’s attack on the eucharist?

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by Neil Godfrey

I have been rethinking Mark’s Last Passover scene in the light of:

  1. the obligations guests have towards their host at a meal
  2. the two earlier feedings of the 5000 and the 4000
  3. other themes found in common between Mark’s gospel and the Gospel of Judas
  4. and the inclusio structure in which the eucharist is narrated
  5. the original meaning of the (Pauline) eucharist underlying 1 Corinthians 10-11

#3 — my recent reading of DeConick’s The Thirteenth Apostle — kicked me into bringing together other perspectives on the eucharist I had been playing with for some time. It was as if the Gospel of Judas as translated by DeConick is the final licence to run with my suspicions that Mark, too, was attacking the eucharist ritual as savagely as he was the Twelve themselves.

Continue reading “Mark’s attack on the eucharist?”

Gospel of Judas — Opposing translations and their significance

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by Neil Godfrey

The National Geographic had a best seller on its hands when it published the Gospel of Judas that presented Judas as the hero of the Twelve rather than the villain as he is in the canonical gospels.

But the significance is not just that in one version Judas is a hero and in the other he is as bad as ever. DeConick’s translation (see previous post regarding her book) gives us a second century gospel that was ridiculing that branch of Christianity that claimed descent from the Twelve Apostles and that has bequeathed us the “orthodox” teaching about the sacrifice of Jesus.

National Geographic has bound to secrecy those scholars it hired to do the work of translation. Those scholars are unable to answer questions from other scholars about translation issues and what eventually appeared in the National Geographic publication of the gospel.

In at least one instance, however, DeConick reports that the National Geographic translators have reconsidered their translation and independently come to her view of a corrected translation (p.54 of The Thirteenth Apostle)

April DeConick has published her translation of the Coptic gospel and compared it with some of the more sensational passages in the National Geographic version. Unlike the translators for the National Geographic, she is able to discuss the issues behind her translations, and her discussions with scholarly peers in regard to the translations, both hers and those appearing in National Geographic.

Here are some of the more notable contrasts between National Geographic’s and April DeConick’s translations:

Spirit or Demon (p. 44.21 of the gospel)

National Geographic

And when Jesus heard this, he laughed and said to him, “You thirteenth spirit, why do you try so hard?”

DeConick’s correction

When Jesus heard (this), he laughed. He said to him, “Why do you compete (with them), O Thirteenth Demon?”

DeConick further outlines the history of the word for demon (daimon), explaining that it had lost the benign meaning it held in the early classical era and had taken on the negative attributes we associate with the word in later Greek philosophical writings. More specifically, “When the word daimon is used in Gnostic sources, it is applied frequently and consistently to the rebellious Archons and their malicious assistants.”

“You will exceed all of them” or “You will do worse than all of them” (p. 56.18 of the gospel)

National Geographic

But you will exceed all of them. For you will sacrifice the man who bears me.

DeConick’s correction

Yet you will do worse than all of them. For the man that clothes me, you will sacrifice him.

The National Geographic translation implies that Judas is destined to perform the greatest and most heroic act by sacrificing Jesus for the salvation of all. But DeConick believes the context in the gospel requires another understanding: Jesus is saying that Judas will “exceed” in the sense of “do worse” than all of these by offering the body of Jesus himself for a sacrifice.

DeConick’s explanation for her disagreement with the National Geographic translation is that the critical words take their meaning from its context. The discussion preceding these lines is negative, but lines are missing from the text, so the National Geographic is able to begin the passage with a new meaning. DeConick argues that despite the missing lines the negative discussion earlier justifies her correction to the negative meaning.

How negative was the earlier passage? It speaks of offering sacrifices to Saklas (a chief Archon assisting the Demiurge or lower god of this world). The specific nature of the sacrifices described earlier were sacrifices of children and wives. These sacrifices were accompanied by homosexual acts. Jesus is saying that Judas will “exceed” in the sense of “do worse” than all of these by offering the body of Jesus himself for a sacrifice.

Other translation differences

National Geographic’s “Set me apart for” becomes “Separated me from” (p. 4617)

“Could it be that my seed is under the control of the rulers?” becomes “At no time may my seed control the archons!” (p. 46.6-7)

“They will curse your ascent to the holy [generation]” becomes “And you will not ascend to the holy [generation]” (p. 46.25)

“Your star has shone brightly” becomes “Your star has ascended” (p. 56.23) (The significance of this change is that the latter corrected translation means the fate of Judas is sealed. The meaning is negative in this context.)

Correcting the National Geographic Myths about Judas (pp. 60-61 of The Thirteenth Apostle)

April DeConick sums up the sensational but false attributes of Judas sold by the National Geographic and compares their claims with her discussions with peers about this translation, and with her own revised translation. In my paraphrase:

  • Judas is the most enlightened of the gnostics — actually a demon
  • Judas ascends to the holy generation — actually Judas is separated from the holy generation and will not ascend there
  • Judas performs a righteous act by betraying Jesus (Jesus wants to be betrayed) — Judas does the worst thing of all by sacrificing Jesus
  • Judas will be able to enter the divine realm — actually Judas cannot enter the heavenly house
  • As the thirteenth, Judas surpasses the twelve disciples and is blessed — Judas does far worse than the twelve and will lament and mourn his fate

I have only sketched a barest outline of what DeConick writes here. But enough, I hope, to give the general idea that we need to move beyond the National Geographic publication of this gospel.

Related post: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says

Critical edition of the Gospel of Judas / Tchacos Codex — which includes link to Roger Pearse’s site, The Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot)

Also Mark’s attack on the eucharist draws in part on DeConick’s Gospel of Judas.


What the Gospel of Judas Really Says — April DeConick’s new book

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by Neil Godfrey

I have just finished reading April DeConick‘s new book, The Thirteenth Apostle: What the Gospel of Judas Really Says. So many comments need to be made directed at so many interests:

  1. Firstly, the book is easily accessible to the lay reader even though it discusses technical translation issues of the Coptic, as well as some of the history of the scholarship relating to the Gospel of Judas and its broader context.
  2. Secondly, for most of us who have read the National Geographic translation of the Gospel of Judas, be prepared for a radical re-think of what we have read there. The National Geographic translation depicts Judas as the only true saint; DeConick’s, as the arch demon himself — or at least destined to join with him in the end.
  3. Which immediately raises the question: Why would a gospel make the central character a demon? DeConick shows how the apparent structure and thematic development of the gospel aligns it with an agenda opposing that Christianity that traced its genealogy back to the Twelve Apostles. Like the Gospel of Mark, the Gospel of Judas was a parody and attack on apostolic Christianity and its doctrine of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus.
  4. Fourthly, April DeConick proposes several reasons to explain such oppositional translations:
    1. She explains in easy to read terms the condition of the text and possible variations in how the original Coptic could be read;
    2. She suggests with Professor Louis Painchaud that since World War 2 and the Holocaust, and the widespread anti-Semitism preceding those years, there has been a powerful cultural need to absolve our collective guilt over the treatment of the Jews. And this compulsion has led us to reappraise our portrayals of the bad Jew/Judah/Judas embedded in our foundational Christian myth. So much for Maloney and Archer’s collaboration on their fictional cum theological treatise of their Judas gospel!
    3. DeConick even has an interesting section that surveys the different films of Jesus before and since World War 2 and compares particularly the portrayal of Judas in those pre- and those post-Holocaust movies — in the pre-war movies he was always an evil villain through and through; in the post-war movies he has been depicted with more understanding and compassion — a well-meaning idealist who just happened not to think the same way as Jesus;
    4. DeConick gives enough information about the transmission of the text and the role of National Geographic in its initial public translation to alert the reader to possible motives and controls at work other than those normally associated with scholarly professionalism.
  5. The book gives a clear overview of the nature of the Christian world in the second century, showing that Apostolic Christianity (claiming descent from the Twelve Apostles) was only one branch; others explained are Marcionites, Ebionites, the Church of the New Prophecy (Montanism) and those diverse others traditionally labeled Gnostics.
  6. Sixthly, the book gives one of the most readable introductions to the intricacies of (Sethian) gnosticism I have ever read. Anyone who has started out cold and attempted to grasp the cosmology of the Sethian gnostics from the Nag Hammadi texts alone as they are presented in the most accessible translations will appreciate this the most.
  7. For Gospel of Mark lovers such as myself I was especially interested in DeConick’s comparisons with the theology and attitudes towards the Twelve Disciples in the Gospel of Mark. My mind cartwheeled as I read. What needs to be worked through, I was thinking, was not just the similarities between the Judas and Mark Gospels’ dismissiveness of the Twelve, but the fact that both gospels are addressing in many ways the same theological (and church genealogical) issues. Could they really be separated by as much as 100 years as orthodox datings propose?
    1. Also closely related to the Gospel of Mark is the way both that gospel and the Judas gospel demonstrate that it is the demons who have the superior understanding of who Jesus really was. (Even Peter’s confession appears tainted with some form of demon-possession given that Jesus calls him Satan at the same moment as his confession.) Even the demons understand more than the apostles!
  8. DeConick provides a clear and easy to read account of the “orthodox” reaction to the theology expressed in the Gospel of Judas. This culminated with Origen’s formulation of the doctrine of Jesus’ sacrifice as a ransom and atonement to trick the Devil and rescue humanity from his power.
  9. The Thirteenth Gospel was one of the very few books where I was drawn to read all the appendices:
  1. DeConick’s annotated bibliography of the Gospel of Judas, second-century Christianity, the New Testament Apocrypha and Gnosis and the Gnostics;
  2. her annotated synopsis of Sethian Gospel literature;
  3. her annotated citations of the testimony from the Church Fathers on the Gospel of Judas;
  4. and finally a Q&A section with April DeConick. This summed up some of the common questions asked about the Gospel of Judas (why is it appearing only now, why such opposing translations, what is the position of other scholars given such opposing translations, early Christianity and the role of Judas. . . .)

I can see myself returning regularly to this book in future references on this blog. (Especially in relation to my special interest in studies relating to the Gospel of Mark and Christian origins.)

Almost forgot — Yes, the book contains a complete and new translation — with commentary — of the Gospel of Judas.

NOTE: Wikipedia’s article on The Gospel of Judas is in urgent need of updating since April DeConick’s book!


The only point I did not like about the book was one that is really a matter of my own idiosyncratic taste. The offending “no no” paragraphs were an attempt to justify the relevance of the gospel to today in terms of its addressing issues of authority — does it come from without, or from our consciences within? That might appeal to those who like to immerse themselves in the minds and philosophies of the ancient and who attempt to bring them into our modern questions. But for one such as myself I find no need for justifying my interest other than the fact that the gospel helps inform us better of the origins and nature of early Christianity.

Related posts found at my Judas tag

See also Opposing translation — further discussion of one section of DeConick’s book.

Critical edition of the Gospel of Judas / Tchacos Codex — which includes link to Roger Pearse’s site, The Coptic Ps.Gospel of Judas (Iscariot)



Mark’s Judas problem: binding the kiss and the sword

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by Neil Godfrey

(updated 6:50 am)

If Mark wanted to show that the Twelve were not reliable witnesses and that they collectively withered and died at the Passion of Jesus, he had a problem with Judas. (For background discussion to this see my earlier post.)

Judas (always labeled “one of the twelve” as if that association alone were enough to taint his reputation) worked well enough to stage a betrayal scene. But the betrayal also created a problem. Continue reading “Mark’s Judas problem: binding the kiss and the sword”


Why Judas was singled out after Mark’s gospel

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This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

by Neil Godfrey

Judas was not much worse than the other disciples in the earliest gospel but by the time we read about him in Matthew, Luke and John he has become the arch villain. In the first gospel a case could be made that Judas was not singularly worse than the rest of the Twelve. Continue reading “Why Judas was singled out after Mark’s gospel”